Westhab, based in Yonkers, NY, was founded in 1981 to address the affordable housing crisis in Westchester County. In it's early stages, the organization bought vacant buildings and renovated them into transitional and permanent housing. In response to the growing homelessness population, Westhab expanded its focus to renovate and operate shelters in Westchester County.
By 2023, Westhab's portfolio expanded to eleven facilities located in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Westchester County.
In 2016, It was awarded it's first homeless shelter contract for the Willow Shelter at 781 East 135th St. in Mott Haven, Bronx. In that same year, a male resident set another male resident on fire at that shelter. https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/homeless-man-sets-fellow-bronx-shelter-resident-fire-article-1.2864606
According to the city-data website, the Willow Shelter address located at 781 E. 135th street, Bronx NY was listed as home to 104 sex offenders https://www.city-data.com/soz/soz-10454.html It is not clear if all 104 sex offenders occupied the shelter in the same time period or in varying intervals.
The Westhab shelter located in Glendale, Queens has also experienced problems.
The shelter opened in February 2020 and operated at half capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that, there were 71 arrests and 853 911 calls made at the shelter’s location, according to a Queens lawmaker as of 2022. https://www.cbsnews.com/newyork/news/cooper-rapid-rehousing-center-glendale-queens/
In March 2022, The city’s Department of Homeless Services dropped plans for a 140-bed single men’s homeless shelter in Morris Park which had been assigned to Westhab. The address of the proposed site of the shelter was 2028 White Plains Road in the Bronx. The property’s owner, a frequent Westhab partner, was a company associated with real estate investor David Levitan, whose signature is on deed records.
Levitan was the subject of a New York Times investigation that documented how he profited from city homeless shelter contracts while housing violations festered in his properties.
“Levitan purchases properties with an eye to turning them into homeless shelters and then leasing his buildings to nonprofits, reaping millions in the process, the Times found. In this case, the Morris Park site — previously home to a bingo hall — stands next to a day care facility.
As part of the arrangement, a Levitan company sold the nonprofit groups maintenance services and in some instances required the shelter providers to use his firm, the Times found.
The Times found that Levitan was the biggest developer of the new shelters under de Blasio, after a history of racking up serious housing violations at his properties. Issues include lack of heat and hot water, vermin infestations and, in the case of one Queens building, the collapse of one of the internal stairwells. “ - THE CITY
Levitan is not the only questionable developer that Westhab has chosen to work with. Camber Property Group recently partnered with Westhab. https://www.bxtimes.com/camber-celebrates-topping-off-of-supportive-housing-development-in-west-farms/
Camber was sited as being a partner in the ownership of Twin Parks. The Bronx hi-rise building was the scene of a catastrophic fire in 2022 that killed seventeen people. https://www.bxtimes.com/property-owners-bronx-fire-building/
"LIHC and Belveron own buildings in New York and elsewhere, and control a combined 80 percent of the Bronx building, but it was Camber that was responsible for day-to-day operations." (New York Times)
The association did not deter the City of New York from offering Westhab yet another contract in a North West section of the Bronx. However that contract raised a red flag.
In 2023, it was revealed that there was a possible conflict of interest in the awarding process of the Westhab contract to establish a men's shelter in Riverdale, NY. https://nypost.com/2023/03/06/homeless-services-corruption-is-just-a-taste-of-nycs-nonprofit-scams/
According to reports, there will be more meetings between the NYC Department of Homeless Services and Bronx Community Board 8 in regards to the proposed men's shelter.
The process has already started. Businesses at the proposed Riverdale site are now shuttered and the community is bracing for yet another round of defensive tactics. Appeals from both the South Yonkers Business Development Association and the Yonkers Police Department have been issued. The proposed shelter borders the merge point where south Yonkers becomes the Bronx. A men's shelter would add to the burden of stabilizing the southern tier of south west Yonkers which has seen it's share of criminal activity.
Current NY state social services law restricts a social services agency from divulging that a sex offender is being housed in a “transient” or temporary homeless shelter. This raises the specter of a single male homeless facility housing an abundance of men who are in the sex offender registry without alerting the community as shown in the 781 East 135th Street Bronx facility.
The fate of the North Riverdale Community and the men who will become new residents is yet to be determined. What is known is that the outcome will have a lasting impact for all.